Now we understand more about core stability, we have to look at how we train for it. Forget your ‘favourite’ exercises for a moment – we have to think about the environment and movement required.
We know from research that in many cases, abdominal trainers such as fit balls etc actually reduce the effectiveness of abdominal training in specific exercises (such as crunches), because they recruit the hip flexors more and therefore reduce the work done by the core. Whilst they’re not deemed redundant, we have to be selective with how we use them. Instead of performing basic stable exercises on them, it may be more beneficial to harness their instability and ballistic properties to enhance core training.
When the EMG (electromyographic) activity of various exercises were studied, the results showed the Swiss ball is very effective when used for exercises such as ab roll outs and pikes . Trunk muscle recruitment was increased, whilst hip flexor engagement decreased.
Athletic core development is about performance, not aesthetics. The ability to resist force and stabilise under challenging conditions requires strength through to the deepest layers of muscle within the core. They also include the muscles on the back of the body – after all these are arguably important to spinal stability.
In a study involving 16 different exercises, researchers found that exercises starting in a vertical position (deadlifts, squats, hanging leg raises etc) activated more core muscle than exercise started in a horizontal position . This shows the importance of exercises such as deadlifts and front squats to athletic core development. A strong back allows core stability and helps to generate rotational and linear force.
Rotational movement also has to be trained. Too many coaches rely on exercises such as crunches, when they provide little/no movement benefit in rotation. When the EMG data of muscles were studied during rotation , it became clear how exactly these muscles are recruited. Knowing how important the obliques, intercostals and even lats are to rotation means they have to be trained in an effective core training workout.